Hurricane Irma could knock out power to half a million TECO customers
High winds and storm surge may force Tampa Electric to shut down some equipment before storm hits
TAMPA, September 9, 2017
With a new track for catastrophic Hurricane Irma that has a bull's-eye on the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Electric is preparing for extensive power outages that could affect 300,000 to 500,000 customers – or 45 percent to 70 percent of the entire system.
The utility is requesting an additional 4,500 line and tree workers to help rebuild the system and restore power after Irma passes through. More than 1,300 workers from other utilities from as far away as the Midwest and Northeast are already traveling to Florida to assist with restoration, for a total of about 6,000 workers in the field, in addition to our regular crews.
"This storm has the potential to be devastating, and our goal is a safe and efficient restoration," said Gordon Gillette, president and chief executive officer of Tampa Electric. "We have prepared for this scenario, and we're bringing in additional resources to meet the challenge. We stand ready for Irma."
Expected high winds and potential storm surge may force Tampa Electric to shut down some equipment ahead of the storm. Tampa Electric is committed to keeping equipment running as long as safely possible before and after the storm. However, if the weather requires it, shutting down equipment could result in power outages before the storm reaches its peak.
- If storm surge threatens our substations, the company may shut them down before saltwater can cause major damage. The substations that are most likely to be affected by storm surge include downtown Tampa and Harbor and Davis islands.
- If sustained winds reach 100 mph, the company may shut down some power plant units. High winds can damage key portions of plants that would take several months to repair.
As part of its storm planning, Tampa Electric has purchased power from other utilities and will continue to do so, when available. The company also may curtail power from large "interruptible" customers and in areas under mandatory evacuation. As a last resort, the company may curtail power in neighborhoods for short periods of time, about 15 minutes, before the storm reaches its peak.
If the company moves forward with this controlled process as early as tonight, we will notify customers immediately through social media (Facebook and Twitter) and traditional media outlets. The systematic process of shutting down plants and substations is part of our comprehensive storm plan.
Customer Service will have 24-hour coverage – and extra staff on hand – to take emergency and outage-related calls. The company also has assistance from other utilities to take weather-related calls, if needed.
Customers can monitor and track outages in their neighborhoods through the outage map at tampaelectric.com/outagemap. The map displays the cause, status and estimated restoration time. Tampa Electric also will use Twitter @tampaelectric to keep customers informed about outage restoration.
The company also recommends that customers have a storm plan in place for their homes or businesses. It's important to prepare now for severe weather during a storm:
- Keep basic items handy such as water, ready-to-eat food, first aid supplies, clothing, extra prescription medicines and cash (banks and ATMs may be closed during the storm).
- Carry a Photo ID on you in case of evacuation.
- Stock up on batteries, and keep flashlights and radios ready.
Tampa Electric would like to remind customers to be safe after a storm:
- Remember to keep away from downed power lines and urge others to be extremely cautious.
- Remember to use portable generators safely. Plug your appliances directly into the generator. DO NOT connect your portable generator into your home's circuits. Connecting your generator to the circuits may cause power to flow to outside lines, posing life-threatening danger to restoration crews.
- Portable generators must not be taken into homes or any enclosed space (like a garage) where deadly carbon monoxide gases could build up.
- Stay out of floodwaters, as they can hide energized power lines or put you at risk of drowning.
Tampa Electric invests more than $55 million annually in a 10-point plan to harden the system against severe weather, which includes infrastructure replacement, tree trimming and pole inspections. In 2016, Tampa Electric:
- Inspected nearly 64,000 wooden poles for strength and physical condition.
- Hardened more than 1,000 structures, including 940 structure replacements and nearly 150 sets of insulators, during the company's annual maintenance of the transmission system.
- Upgraded nearly 6,000 distribution poles.
- Trimmed tree limbs and branches from about one-fourth of the system – 1,300 miles – as part of our four-year vegetation management program.
Tampa Electric, one of Florida's largest investor-owned electric utilities, serves about 730,000 customers in West Central Florida. Tampa Electric is a subsidiary of Emera Inc., a geographically diverse energy and services company headquartered in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.